Sunday, September 20, 2009

Technology Never Promised to Take Less Time

Technology never promised to take less time. Well, if it did that was back in the '70s when we thought 2001 would never come and by then we'd all be wearing white zippered polyester suits a la Star Trek. This week I spent four days doing with Web 2.0 what used to take ten minutes the old-fashioned way.

Okay, now, to do it again, I could probably accomplish it in two-days, given what I learned in the process.

My students had made what I call "Beowulf Tapestries," panels of muslin fabric on which the students depict a scene from Beowulf on each panel. Together they roughly make up a project in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry, which we study as well. Each panel is to depict a moment from a particular canto and quote text. Then students identify themes that resonate from this scene.

In my early years, I would stitch the panels together for a wall hanging. One year I had a panel for each of the hundred-some cantos. Lately, I've stapled them together on a bulletin board for a similar effect. This year I decided to go digital.

Rather than present their work in the room, I had my students snap a picture with the web cams in their laptops and maneuver the file into our PB Works wiki for an online ensemble. No sweat, right?

No. . . sweat! Computers didn't log on. User names were mispelt. And my students had never played in a wiki space before. So it took four days and we learned along the way. By the third day I realized that I should have started by having everyone make a sandbox page first. This facilitates them all working at once and uploading their files simultaneously--a huge time saver. They also can "play" in their sandboxes! while waiting for others to finish.
All in all the project turned out. My students and I have a few more digital skills in our respective repertoires and Beowulf is still our hero.

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